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World Cup | Should Spain be worried about the Russia clash?


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After the chaos of the opening week of the World Cup when Spain parted ways with manager Julen Lopetegui, things have calmed down somewhat for La Furia Roja.

Albeit their progression to the knockout stage was fraught with more tumult than they may have expected with Iran running them close in a narrow 1-0, a thrilling 3-3 draw with Iberian neighbours Portugal and a 2-2 with an already eliminated Morocco.

In the end, Spain topped their group and will now face host nation Russia, who will certainly be seen as underdog and outsider against one of the favourites.

Our European football correspondent Graham Hunter has been following Spain as they blaze their trail around Russia and he joined Ger Gilroy to look ahead to Sunday's last-16 clash in Moscow.

"In football terms there shouldn't be a gigantic argument about [the game] if Spain hit form," he said, pointing out his recent interview with Spain's Marco Asensio in which the Real Madrid winger insisted that they need to improve "little details" around the way they have controlled games so far.

 Spain's Marco Asensio. Picture by: Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport

"Some of the stats from the Morocco game, they had 75% of the ball but still had to score a last minute equaliser in order to win the group and to absolutely make sure that they go through. It's more about game management. It's more about in certain phases of play, knowing how to tire another team out and knowing how to take the sting out of the match."

He also expects Spain not to be fazed by the fact that their upcoming opponents are the host nation, with all the ensuing pressure that entails. 

Rather, according to Graham, "this is a wrestling match with their own tiredness, with their own self-confidence and their own ability". 

Graham also feels that it's Isco "essential" plays deeper rather than so high up the pitch as he has been, as well as the need for a less leaky defence than the one that performed in the group stage.


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